Consulting Services CARES Act: Emergency Grants for Airports
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Last updated on 4/20/2020

In addition to providing assistance for small businesses, healthcare, and higher education, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act also provides emergency appropriations for governmental agency operations including airports and airport sponsors. This assistance is provided in the form of funding through traditional grant channels and is intended to provide financial resources for the prevention of, preparation for, and response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Airport Program Overview

On April 15, 2020, the FAA published the list of Grant Amounts to Airports, which includes a detailed listing of award amounts by state, city, and airports.

Administered by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Airports, the CARES “Grants-In-Aid for Airports” program includes $10 billion in aid derived directly from the U.S. Treasury’s General Fund. These funds may be used for essentially “any purpose for which airport revenues may be lawfully used.” CARES grant recipients should follow the FAA’s Revenue Use Policy in determining appropriate use. In addition to the detailed guidance in the FAA policy, the CARES Act makes clear that the funds may not be used for any purpose not related to the airport.

Eligibility

Funds are available to “airport sponsors” as defined in Section 47102 of title 49 of the United States Code; and identified in the FAA’s current National Plan of Integrated Airports System (NPIAS). Generally speaking, this includes public agencies and private owners of public-use airports that submit an application for financial assistance.

Availability of Funds

Funds are available until expended. There is no deadline to obligate funds available under the Airport Program; however, the FAA intends to award grants and obligate funds on an expedited basis.

Fund Use and Deadlines

There is no deadline by which funds for operating expenses must be used. Airport sponsors are encouraged to spend funds expeditiously to reduce the adverse impact from the current COVID-19 emergency.

Allocation of Funds

The $10 billion in funding is divided into four groups, outlined below. The CARES Act establishes formulas for each group to allocate the funds to specific airports. Because the CARES Act allocates all funds by formula or increases the Federal share for grants funded under fiscal year (FY) 2020 appropriations, none of these funds are discretionary. The groups are as follows:

  1. At least $500 million is available to increase the Federal share to 100% for grants awarded under the FY 2020 appropriations cycle for FY 2020 AIP and FY 2020 Supplemental Discretionary grants.
  2. At least $7.4 billion is available to commercial service airports.
  3. Up to $2 billion is available to primary airports.
  4. At least $100 million is available to general aviation airports.

Further information, requirements and limitations on fund use can be found in the recently updated FAA Airport Grants FAQ.

Grant Application

Airport sponsors must submit a grant application using the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) SF 424 Application for Federal Assistance form to access funds specific to groups 2-4 above.

No application is needed for the increased Federal share of FY 2020 supplemental Discretionary grants and the AIP grants (group 1 above).

Special Provisions

Employment

  • All airports receiving funds shall continue to employ, through December 31, 2020, at least 90 percent of the number of individuals employed by the airport as of the date of enactment of this Act (after making adjustments for retirements or voluntary employee separations).
  • The Workforce Retention requirement does not apply to non-hub or non-primary airports.
  • The Department of Transportation would have the power to waive the workforce retention requirement if the agency determines the airport is experiencing "economic hardship" or if the requirement would undermine aviation safety and security.

Help is Available

As guidelines for the FAA’s Grants-In-Aid program continue to be published and updated, airport sponsors will face new and complex challenges in planning and executing a controlled approach to stability while managing day-to-day airport operations.

P&N’s dedicated professionals are committed to understanding and applying CARES Act information and staying connected with our clients to quickly identify challenges, help navigate federal regulations and develop a sound plan of action. Please contact us or connect with your P&N advisor to discuss your organization’s questions, concerns, and priorities.

 

Kathryn Pittman contributed to this article.

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